Scientists have spent decades trying to replicate the structure and clarity of a biological eye through various advanced electronic components and neuromorphic architecture. But it seems the wait is over now , An international team led by scientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has recently developed the world's first 3D artificial eye mechanized with an electrochemical cell whose capabilities are way better than existing bionic eyes and in some cases, even exceed those of the human eyes, bringing a vision to humanoid robots and new hope to patients with visual impairment.
The key feature allowing such breakthroughs is a 3D artificial retina — made of an array of nanowire light sensors that mimic the photoreceptors in human retinas. Developed by Prof. FAN Zhiyong and Dr. GU Leilei from the Department of Electronics and Computer Engineering at HKUST, the team connected the nanowire light sensors to a bundle of liquid-metal wires serving as nerves behind the human-made hemispherical retina during the experiment, and successfully replicated the visual signal transmission to reflect what the eye sees onto the computer screen.
The scientists are eyeing a mammoth scope from this discovery. These nanowire light sensors could be directly connected to the nerves of the visually impaired patients. its mechanism is very different from the normal human eye, where bundles of optic nerve fibers (for signal transmission) need to route through the retina via a pore -- from the front side of the retina to the backside (thus creating a blind spot in human vision) before reaching the brain.
But with this mechanism, the light sensors that are deployed to scatter across the entire human-made retina could each feed signals through its own liquid-metal wire at the back, thereby eliminating the blind spot issue as they do not have to route through a single spot.
Secondly, as nanowires have an even higher density than photoreceptors in the human retina, the artificial retina can thus receive more light signals and potentially attain a higher image resolution than the human retina. This opens the scope for perfect visualization during night and increases in sensitivity to the next level.
Currently, the team is trying to increase the performance, stability and biocompatibility of the device.